Saturday, October 1, 2011

Wall Street Protests in their 15th Day

Three Saturdays ago, I stumbled upon the opening march and rally of the Occupy Wall Street protests. This past week I returned to New York City’s financial center to examine whether the intensity of these demonstrations had diminished after two humid weeks of rallies, sleeping in parks, and confrontations with police.

To my surprise, it hadn’t. On Friday and Saturday, for example, I witnessed significantly larger crowds than at the start.

My next blog entry will examine the potential effects this movement may have on the political process if it continues to gain steam. Will a populist anti-Wall Street movement, for example, help or hurt Obama? What about his initiatives like the jobs bill?

I will write more in-depth on this soon. But for now, I'd like to briefly comment on the demonstrations I witnessed yesterday.

There was a lot of commotion as the protest veered onto the Brooklyn Bridge. I was slow to catch up to the scene and, as a result, I was merely a faraway spectator as the police blocked off access to both sides of the expanse after demonstrators proceeded across.

At this point the story is disputed. The police claim protesters moved off the sidewalks and into vehicle traffic despite official warnings, while protesters counter the police officers led them onto the lanes of the bridge. The New York Times City Room did a complete report of this event.

Observers – many of them tourists – began to congregate at my vantage point in City Hall Park near the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge subway station. Slowly individual protesters were seen returning toward Manhattan from the bridge.

Monica Bethelwood, a musician from Albany, New York, was one. “Some people are getting out, I don’t how they would take us all away. There’s, like, hundreds of people there.”

As more passersby amassed at City Hall Park, police officers began to approach various individuals in the crowd, ordering them to leave. One came up to me while I was taking notes. He scrutinized my notebook and, without looking up, said, “keep walking.”

The NYPD needs to reevaluate these tactics. Ordering bystanders to vacate a public park, not only alienates the police force, but also hurts citizens’ ability to observe a potentially important political event.

For a more detailed, albeit somewhat chaotic, report check out this audio commentary from Democracy Now’s Ryan Devereaux who was on the bridge.

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